Reviews for Truffle hound : on the trail of the world's most seductive scent, with dreamers, schemers, and some extraordinary dogs

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A Mark Kurlanskyesque romp through the science, history, and culture surrounding that most elusive of foodstuffs, the truffle.White truffles, writes James Beard Award winner Jacobsen, are the worlds most expensive food. Around that rare commodity has arisen a sophisticated trade network that begins with discovering the chemically complex fungus in the depths of oak forests throughout Europe, mostly. That job was first undertaken by pigs, which are natural and enthusiastic consumers of truffles, meaning that a truffle hunter needed to be sure that his porcine associates didnt eat up the proceeds; most modern hunters have switched over to dogs, which are less interested in the truffles. (Besides, writes Jacobsen, if a rival hunter sees you loading your car with pigs, he knows what youre up to and can follow you.) The author depicts a culture of truffle finding, trading, and eating that is as complex as the aromatic stew of ingredients that goes into one, and he commits to paper lovely images that combine both intrigue and a certain level of surrealism: If Wes Anderson shot a John le Carr novel, he might well choose the Hotel Savona [Alba, Italy] for his set. The money behind the story is huge, and truffles are often traded as if they contained pharmaceutical-grade heroin, in back alleys and parking garagesno surprise, since they are both scarce and heavily regulated. Naturally, Jacobsen writes, factory-food types are trying to grow them in greenhouses, but the results are relatively flavorless so far, with the air of more raw leek than golden-fried garlic. Jacobsen closes with a set of recipes, some improbable (truffletini, anyone?) and some resoundingly simple: Many of the best ways to use truffles dont require a recipe at all. Just grate into X before serving and save a few wafers for show.Just dont truffle everything; less is more. Its an altogether delightful narrative.Fans of pungent flavorsand pungent prosewill enjoy this mouthwatering grand tour of a culinary treasure. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A Mark Kurlansky–esque romp through the science, history, and culture surrounding that most elusive of foodstuffs, the truffle. “White truffles,” writes James Beard Award winner Jacobsen, “are the world’s most expensive food.” Around that rare commodity has arisen a sophisticated trade network that begins with discovering the chemically complex fungus in the depths of oak forests throughout Europe, mostly. That job was first undertaken by pigs, which “are natural and enthusiastic consumers of truffles,” meaning that a truffle hunter needed to be sure that his porcine associates didn’t eat up the proceeds; most modern hunters have switched over to dogs, which are less interested in the truffles. (Besides, writes Jacobsen, if a rival hunter sees you loading your car with pigs, he knows what you’re up to and can follow you.) The author depicts a culture of truffle finding, trading, and eating that is as complex as the aromatic stew of ingredients that goes into one, and he commits to paper lovely images that combine both intrigue and a certain level of surrealism: “If Wes Anderson shot a John le Carré novel, he might well choose the Hotel Savona [Alba, Italy] for his set.” The money behind the story is huge, and truffles are often traded as if they contained pharmaceutical-grade heroin, in back alleys and parking garages—no surprise, since they are both scarce and heavily regulated. Naturally, Jacobsen writes, factory-food types are trying to grow them in greenhouses, but the results are relatively flavorless so far, with the air of “more raw leek than golden-fried garlic.” Jacobsen closes with a set of recipes, some improbable (truffletini, anyone?) and some resoundingly simple: “Many of the best ways to use truffles don’t require a recipe at all. Just grate into X before serving and save a few wafers for show….Just don’t truffle everything; less is more.” It’s an altogether delightful narrative. Fans of pungent flavors—and pungent prose—will enjoy this mouthwatering grand tour of a culinary treasure. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In the woods of northern Italy at the base of the Alps, humans and dogs crawl among tree roots to search out the elusive king of gastronomic delights, the celebrated Alba truffle. Personally overwhelmed by the all-encompassing scent of a freshly dug truffle, Jacobsen, who explored one of the ocean’s greatest bounties in The Essential Oyster (2016), determines to find the secrets behind the subterranean fungus renowned as one of the world’s most expensive foods. Accompanying a truffle hunter with a pair of Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, Jacobsen digs into the soil for tasty treasure. Turning his attention to the larger world of truffle distribution and merchandising, he finds that large corporations control most of the trade, and even the most respected firms have been criminally indicted for adulterating their product with inferior, nearly tasteless Chinese truffles. But truffle aficionados are in luck: excellent specimens now come from other Italian regions, and from Eastern Europe, England, and the U.S. A worldwide catalog of truffle resources invites exploration, and some recipes give ideas for using the bounty.


Publishers Weekly
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James Beard Award–winning author Jacobsen (A Geography of Oysters) captivates with this dual narrative, both an eloquent and sensuous treatise on truffles and the enthralling story of his obsessive quest to learn everything there is to know about them. His love affair begins in the Piedmont region of Italy, at the peak of truffle season, where he smelled a white truffle for the first time. One whiff of the intoxicating aroma set him off on a passionate pursuit to learn more about the unassuming fungi: “I’d never understood the truffle thing, and now, suddenly, I had to.” From a nighttime truffle hunt with a famous trifulau (“as truffle hunters are called in Piedmont”) and a potentially illicit transaction in a hotel lobby to learning about the “false, misleading, and deceptive misbranding” of truffle oil in the U.S. and beyond, Jacobsen offers a thrilling dive into the secretive and lucrative world “of this subterranean wonder.” The real delicacy here, though, is the arresting prose used to convey his reverence and awe: “Slice open a truffle and you’ll see a beautifully marbled interior with a fine honeycomb of white veins... produce a dumbfounding cocktail of aromatic compounds.... No words can do justice to the scent of a white truffle.” While that may be true, Jacobsen definitely comes close. Agent: Angela Miller, Miller Bowers Literary Management. (Oct.)

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